WL Gore Succeeds Without Employees

Did you know that WL Gore, creator of Gore-Tex and other high-tech fabrics, has no employees? I didn’t, until I read an article in the Financial Times about WL Gore’s management approach. It turns out that they have 8,500 “associates,” but no “employees.” But this isn’t just about terminology, the company operates with a very flat hierarchy, with only minimal bureaucracy; it’s baked into WL Gore’s corporate culture.

Even the appointment of CEO Terri Kelly was a group decision. Here’s what Kelly said: 

Bill Gore had that vision right from the beginning, that everyone participates in the growth of the company, everyone’s a shareholder of the company … it’s a partnership, and you are part of that enterprise.

My take: The article discusses the strengths of WL Gore’s participatory management style. While the firm takes a lot of time to make decisions, it tends to have a high level of alignment around the outcome. So, in the long-run, the company deals with less resistance during implementation. And, as I’ve said in the past, engaging employees is a prerequisite for engaging customers.

As I thought about this situation, I realized that you need to look at decision making as a multi-step process which includes: making the decision, selling the decision internally, and implementing the decision. When you look at the entire system, it becomes clear why a slow decision making process can actually make for an even faster, more successful outcome:

decisionmaking_small2

The bottom line: Sometimes slower can be faster.

Written by 

I am an experience management transformist, helping organizations improve business results by engaging the hearts and minds of their customers, employees, and partners. My "job" is Head of the Qualtrics XM Institute. The Institute is still being established, but our goal is to help organizations around the world thrive by mastering Experience Management (XM). As part of this focus, I examine strategy, culture, interaction design, customer service, branding and leadership practices. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. Prior to joining Qualtrics, I was managing partner of Temkin Group (leading CX research, advisory, and training firm), co-founder and chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA.org), and a VP at Forrester Research. I'm a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Check out my LinkedIn profile: www.linkedin.com/in/brucetemkin

3 thoughts on “WL Gore Succeeds Without Employees”

  1. Very helpful analysis of WL Gore and the advantages of a participatory approach.

    Have you read Lynda Gratton’s book, The Democratic Enterprise?

    She has a lot to add to the meaningful conversation you’ve started here.

    Thanks for stirring things up!

    Keep creating…a story worth repeating,
    Mike

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